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Tens of thousands of GPs on brink of early retirement, BMA finds

A major BMA survey has revealed that six in ten GPs are considering early retirement and more than half say their morale is either ‘low’ or ‘very low’, in findings that will form the core of the profession’s fight back against Government cuts to general practice.

The survey, which involved 420 GP respondents, also revealed that almost half the respondents having already made changes or planning to make changes to their work life balance.  

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he would use the ‘shocking’ results to lobby ministers on the impact of the ongoing drive to keep patients out of hospital, and highlight how funding cuts are threatening to overwhelm general practice.

A separate RCGP poll of patients showed almost two-thirds of respondents believe the sheer volume of consultations taking place are a threat to patient care. RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said over the weekend that general practice is in real danger of ‘extinction’.

Pulse recently revealed that GPs in some parts of England are currently working for free as a result of the changes made by the imposed 2013/14 GP contract, and a series of below inflation pay uplifts. The 0.28% pay uplift for 2014/15 has also reduced the morale of GPs.

The survey, which the BMA said is accurate to within 3.3% at a 95% confidence level, found that 56.8% had considered retiring early, while 27.7% had thought of leaving the profession.

Furthermore, 47% said they had already made changes, or are in the process of planning for a change to their work life balance. Only 14.1% said they had not considered a move away from their current role.

When asked how they would describe their current level of morale, 39% answered ‘low’, and 16% said ‘very low’. Only 1% said it was ‘very high’, while 13% said it was ‘high’.

It also found that 54.1% of GPs described their current workload as ‘unmanageable or unsustainable’.

Dr Nagpaul said general practice was in danger of becoming ‘overwhelmed’.

He told Pulse: ‘It is shocking that so many GPs intend to retire early. The Government has to act to retain the workforce – by making the workload manageable and providing enough resources. GPs are overstretched and overwhelmed, and there is not the capacity to deal with the volume of work that is moving out of hospital.’

Dr Nagpaul added: ‘We are seeing morale dip to a level that I cannot remember in my 25 years as a GP.’

One survey respondent, Norfolk-based GP Dr John Harris-Hall, said of his decision to retire early: ‘The increasing demand and workload pressure are leading to low morale and stress, causing many GPs like myself to leave the profession. I am sad to retire early but I feel there is no other choice. Enough is enough.’

The RCGP poll of 1,007 patients found that 62% believe that the number of patient consultations GPs conduct each day – which the RCGP estimated at between 40-60 in most cases – is a threat to the standard of care they can provide to patients.

The poll, conducted by ComRes, also found that 28% of those surveyed could not get an appointment in the same week when they last tried to book an appointment.

Dr Baker said: ‘General practice as we know it is now under severe threat of extinction. It is imploding faster than people realise and patients are already bearing the brunt of the problem. This will only get worse unless urgent action is taken to redress the huge and historic imbalance in funding.’

Related images

  • Dr Chaand Nagpaul 2013 - online

Readers' comments (134)

  • Una Coales

    'The 1966 Doctor's Charter introduced allowances for rent and ancillary staff, significantly increased the pay scales, and changed the structure of payments to reflect "both qualifications of doctors and the form of their practices, i.e. group practice." These changes not only led to higher morale, but also resulted in the increased use of ancillary staff and nursing attachments, a growth in the number of health centres and group practices, and a boost in the modernisation of practices in terms of equipment, appointment systems, and buildings.[29] The charter introduced a new system of payment for GPs, with refunds for surgery, rents, ands rates, to ensure that the costs of improving his surgery did not diminish the doctor's income, together with allowances for the greater part of ancillary staff costs.' Reference wiki Harold Wilson.

    If the government cannot afford to cover public sector services, then allow the public to chip in and pay top ups to save the best of state medical care. Without access to state hospitals, the poor, indigent and elderly will suffer, especially if all local state hospitals continue to be closed.

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  • HMG would love us to resign on mass . Brilliant spin possibilities . Guerrilla tactics are best. I like the idea of not signing up to do out of hours shifts .

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  • Una Coales

    @7:37 pm some GPs only work OOHs. Not sure how they can just walk away from their livelihood for 2 weeks.

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  • Una Coales

    http://www.thehsgp.co.uk/html/doctors.html Young GPs are already dividing their time between the NHS and private practice as a way to survive. As work for the NHS becomes untenable, the transition to private practice will become complete and the generalist survives.

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  • Having spoken to several F1 and F2s, very few want to apply for GP training. Can't blame them, TBH. Clever clogs

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  • Either walk away from OOH for 2 weeks ( take a co-ordinated holiday ) or spend the rest of their miserable lives shackled to an HMO rowing bench . Full ahead everybody the captain wants to go water skiing .

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  • Una Coales

    Capping entry into hospital specialist training will only force foundation years to go into GP training to come out the other end and buy a one way ticket to Australia or New Zealand.

    Yes if GPs are happy to take a 2 week holiday during strike action, it would work but can imagine NHS England lawyers having a field day cancelling contracts on grounds of breach and then closing more GP surgeries. Would need full BMA legal support to tackle the aftermath.

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  • Vinci Ho

    I would support an non cooperative movement led by all, has to be ALL ,CCG GP commissioners in the country to go on strike in CCGs but no strike in seeing our patients. Yes, there may be legal implication(s). But if 'GPs are CCG' , all GP commissioners are representing GPs .
    If HSCB is evil, go on strike to stop licking the feet of the evil ............

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  • Vinci.
    You are having a laugh. CCG members are gullible believers and would rather work for free because they are feeling important in regurgitating ' more for less', ' efficiency savings' and slating their own colleagues for over referring and non-efficient prescribing than representing the opinions of the normal GP who still mainly sees patients. Our lot is brainwashed and doing the job because you can't find anyone else to even stand for a position on the board. Once they are burned out it's hard to see any successors either. That's what you call a success story in 'putting GPs in charge'.

    With regards to the Daily Mail and public opinion- who gives a damn. Let's find out who will see the punters when the ship goes down - only then the public will have a chance to judge their elected leaders. We won't save the NHS or General Practice - only the public can do it and I still believe that no spin doctoring will save the politicians for being blamed if things start to seriously go down the drain and that's the moment we'll all turn into saints ( nurses that is).
    We really need a few more bad years to make it apparent how desperate General Practice really is and the sooner this happens the better for our patients it will be.
    We are not miners or ship builders, there is nobody who can do our job better or more efficient somewhere else.
    We command more trust than any other profession - why? Because what we do is genuinely important, demanding and difficult. it's them who have to worry - if we only had the guts to show a bit of solidarity and stop worry about our public image. We really are not doing our patients any favours by trying to be martyrs or saints.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Yes. Point taken. I wonder same survey can be done ONLY on all GP commissioners in the country ???
    The result will be extremely interesting.
    Please send in your comments.....

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